Bourbon War a tepid top pick in Preakness

A field of 13 will try their luck in the Grade I, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico this Saturday. There’s a lack of star power with both disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security and promoted winner Country House bypassing the race along with the sidelined Omaha Beach, but that has served to make the “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” a wide-open wagering opportunity. The 144th Preakness, going as Race 13 of 14 on the day, has an estimated post time of 6:48 p.m. ET.

#2 BOURBON WAR (12-1) was an uninspiring fourth in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park when last seen. Despite placing in the Fountain of Youth behind Code of Honor (who returned to run third, placed second, in the “Run for the Roses”), two starts back, BOURBON WAR just missed the points cutoff for the Kentucky Derby.

The son of Tapit should get a much faster pace to work with in the Preakness than he did in the Florida Derby, where Maximum Security and BODEXPRESS ran one-two all the way around. ALWAYSMINING and ANOTHERTWISTAFATE will be looking for the lead, among others. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the call on this maturing colt.

#9 BODEXPRESS (20-1) seeks his first ever victory in career start number seven in the Preakness Stakes (6-0-3-0). He steadied sharply in the far turn incident in the Kentucky Derby, taking away whatever chance he had at a placing. A well-beaten fourth in his only other try on an off-track suggests the mud at Churchill didn’t help his cause. If he can run back to his second-place effort in the Florida Derby, BODEXPRESS could at least hit the ticket at a big price. John Velazquez takes over.

#11 LAUGHING FOX (20-1) capitalized on a drop in class last time out, winning the Oaklawn Invitational from well off the pace two weeks ago. He was no match for Omaha Beach and company in the Rebel and Arkansas Derby in his previous two starts, so he seems somewhat overmatched here. However, with a favorable pace scenario and a switch back to Ricardo Santana Jr., LAUGHING FOX should be left in the mix.

#4 IMPROBABLE (5-2, morning-line favorite) will likely be a lukewarm favorite in Saturday’s Preakness. He wasn’t much of a factor in the Kentucky Derby as the 4-1 favorite, but he still beat 14 horses. IMPROBABLE had never missed the exacta in five prior starts; perhaps the mud inhibited him. However, the son of City Zip has seemingly peaked in the speed figure department. Mike Smith takes over.

The play: $3 exacta key box 2/9,10, $2 exacta key box 9/2,10 ($20)

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